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Next Generation of Corporate Real Estate: Occupant-focused Organizations Driven by AI

From Corporate Real Estate Journal Volume 9, Number 1, pp. 84–86
© Henry Stewart Publications

Received: 5th August, 2019

Colette Temmink

Chief Strategy and Product Officer | Co-Founder

Traditional corporate real estate (CRE) departments are focused on ensuring companies secure the right space at the right time and maintaining their real estate foot- print. As talent and retention become the continued focus of companies, CRE functions are responding by focusing on the work environment provided to employees and recognizing their influence on productivity and retention. This includes progressing to more of an occupant-focused organization, which includes using artificial intelligence (AI) and big data to help personalize services that current and future employees will require.

The importance of understanding both what a customer wants and their service needs is critical to any organization. Today’s customers have more information at their fingertips to make increasingly effective buying decisions and provide constructive feedback that can have an impact on a company’s brand. The increased amount of customer empowerment created through technology is important for companies to understand and align their operations by creating customer-focused organizations.

Customer-focused organizations base operations around the customer and focus on interactions to enhance service delivery. These interactions should focus on satisfying the customer desires through improvements such as increasing the speed of business by continuous technology innovations and social media.

Customer-focused or oriented organizations have been the topic of academics and business leaders for decades; however, the ones that use technology to develop strategies to meet customer preferences through personalized services will succeed. Today, organizations have the ability to utilize many technologies and analytical tools to provide customer insights that were historically based on educated guesses. These tools should enable an organization to understand how to meet customer needs and enable them to act.1 In addition, more personalized experiences are being delivered through mobile technology.
The intelligent mobile apps market is expected to grow at a 30.7 per cent com- pound annual growth rate until 2026, fueled by a desire for more big data and analytics.2 With the advancement of AI, mobile apps are capable of increased relevant personalized outcomes.3 While companies are not born digital, they need to align structure, ways of working and culture to enable AI’s success and adoption.4

AI is a field of computer engineering and its foundation is based on developing systems that collect data to enable decision making. It includes big data and mathematical algorithms to support machine learning. Although CRE is one of the largest industries, it is also one of the last to move towards digital transformation, which has caused a delay in AI opportunities. AI has the potential to be the largest technological disruptor to commercial real estate as it has been to other industries and the opportunity for advancements are vast.

As generations become more engaged with social media and mobile technology, this can provide increasingly valuable real-time data. Brinzea5 suggested that given the technological savvy of the entering workforce, companies should consider reverse-mentoring programs whereby new employees mentor existing employees in such areas as technology tools. As the generations in the workplace become accustomed to the latest technology tools, they also become accustomed to the increased level of personalized services these tools offer — for example, real-time information on when their repair requests will be completed.
The focus on personalization is becoming increasingly important. In 2018, Eplison proved that a ‘supermajority of consumers prefer to work with brands that offer personalized experiences’.<sup>6</sup> One form of enabling personalization is technology; customers are turning away from live person-to-person communications to digital (eg SMS, text, chatbots, social media). According to Blake,7 49 per cent of consumers engage with automated assistance or chatbots more than once a week and are open to other tools based on service effectiveness.

Data-driven insights and AI are supporting the ability to provide personalized services. This happens at the intersection of the physical building, people occupying the building. and the technology tools that support AI or machine learning — for example, having the ability to personalize space by changing office lighting or automatically booking a conference room for a meeting based on the time and number of participants. Companies that understand and provide personal experiences will be successful in the future.8 This personalized experience includes customer historical preferences, communication preferences and location.9 Today, we are seeing multiple mobile apps available for building occupants that provide personalized services such as concierge, wellness, building access, food service, etc.

Successful CRE change efforts actively engage human resources, technology and corporate strategy in the effort. CRE leaders who brought in important players from these disciplines early in the workplace change process had greater success in less time than those companies which saw their effort as simply a real estate cost­savings initiative.

Successful companies recognize the need to be customer-focused at all levels of the organization. ‘In fact, three-quarters of business leaders from high-performance organizations declared their companies to be more customer-focused than their competitors.’10 This includes CRE functions. CRE organizations can also take this customer-focused ethos to serve their employees by enhancing the employee experience, which in turn influences productivity.

To serve employees or occupants in a building, a CRE organization should start with understanding their needs and wants — and there are many tools to do so. Some include day-to-day information and data on how employees use space and the services they consume. In addition, these insights can provide real-time data to improve service execution and increase customer satisfaction. For example, real-time customer consumption and feedback can enable timely adjustments to service responses suggested by AI-driven tools.

Customer-oriented businesses customize services to support their clients and look for continued client interactions for long-term retention.11 Ray12 continues to suggest that not responding to clients results in loss of money or clients. This is similar to losing an employee, along with their talent and knowledge, and the cost of rehiring and training to replace the position. Employee retention and performance are influenced by an employee’s engagement. Gallup13 reported that approximately 51 per cent of 32m American employees surveyed are not engaged in their work and 16 per cent were found to be actively disengaged.
Measuring the effectiveness of a customer-focused organization includes integrity, which translates to delivering on promises.14 For CRE organizations, this can equate to service delivery. If an employee puts in a request to improve the temperature of the space and this is not resolved, it is unlikely the customer satisfaction would be positive — in addition to the loss in productivity, as the issue takes focus away from their work.


With mobile connectivity such as 5G, edge computing and augmented reality (AR) maintenance solutions, we will see acceleration of continued personalization of facilities services.

‘The fittest organizations with chances for survival are adaptive, agile and flexible to the changing needs of customers, technology, regulations, demand, and external trends. Consequently, agile organizations have the ability to innovate on behalf of their customers.’15

CRE organizations have the ability to adapt to focusing on personalizing services to support the occupants of a building and enable their company’s success.


(1) Morgan, B. (December 2017), ‘How to Build the Most Customer- Focused Culture in the World’, Forbes, available at sites/blakemorgan/2017/12/11/ how-to-build-the-most-customer-focused- culture-in-the-world/#384e0de056d6 (accessed 24th July, 2019).

(2) Business Wire (December 2018), ‘Intelligent Apps: Worldwide Market Analysis to 2026 – Expected to Register a CAGR of 30.7% – ResearchAndMarkets. com’, available at https://www.businesswire. com/news/home/20181211005838/en/ Intelligent-Apps-Worldwide-Market- Analysis-2026– (accessed 5th August, 2019).

(3) Ibid, note 2.

(4) Fountaine, T., McCarthy, B. and Saleh, T. (2019), ‘Building the AI-Powered Organization’, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 97, No. 4, pp. 62–73.

(5) Brinzea, V.-M. (2018), ‘Reverse Mentoring – When Generation Y Becomes the Trainer within a Multi- Generational Workforce’, Scientific Bulletin – Economic Sciences, University of Pitesti, Vol. 17, No. 3, pp. 77–82.

(6) Ibid., note 1. (7) Ibid., note 6. (8) Ibid., note 6. (9) Ibid., note 6.

(10) American Management Association (AMA) (January 2019), ‘The Customer-Focused Organization’, available at https://www. (accessed 24th July, 2019).

(11) Ray, L. (n.d.), ‘Characteristics of a Customer-Focused Organizational Model’, AZ Central, available at characteristics-customerfocused- organizational-model-16885.html (accessed 24th July, 2019).

(12) Ibid., note 11.

(13) Gallup (2017), ‘State of the American Workplace’, pp. 1–214, available at https:// aspx?utm_source=SOAW&utm_campa ign=StateofAmericanWorkplace&utm_ medium=2013SOAWreport# (accessed 5th August, 2019).

(14) Ibid., note 11.

(15) Galetti, B., Golden III, J. and Brozovich, S. (2019), ‘Inside Day 1: How Amazon Uses Agile Team Structures and Adaptive Practices to Innovate on Behalf of Customers’, People & Strategy, Vol. 42, No. 2, pp. 36–41.

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